Unconvinced by Wilkie’s Hobart parochialism

Tassie population centre


It is not often I read Andrew Wilkie and find myself completely unconvinced by the content of his argument. Sure I can disagree with him but this is something else. His argument itself is to use his words “parochialism gone mad”

Tasmania is the least “capitalised” state in Australia. 214k live in Hobart, 300k Tasmanians don’t. The population centre is about half way between Hobart and Launceston. Wilkie’s argument seems primarily to be the Hobart is the capital and that the new centralised health organisation should be there. Oh, and the main hospital is there, so the health admin should be. Presumably the fact that the health admin is there is the compelling reason the main hospital should also be.

Well indeed! Somewhat less than compelling for this Tasmanian, as we could move that “main” hospital too.

Wilkie’s seems (to me at least) to be running a remarkably base argument. Hobart is the capital, and the main services should be in the capital. Parochial seems like a fair description.

If you were truly going to minimise the commute for Tasmanians then Launceston would be it for pretty much all single location government services.

I don’t live in Launceston, but I would be absolutely delighted to see the Health Administration move to Launceston. In targeting the “Launceston mafia” Wilkie might be a little narrow in his attribution. I suspect an overwhelming majority of non Hobart Tasmania would support moving the Health administration to Launceston.

Perhaps we could be move the “main” hospital too?


ALP’s Treasurer in waiting??

ImageThere will be a LOT of commentary on Hockey’s first budget tonight.  I may even be prompted in to blogging myself, but there will also be an opportunity to see who are the economic leaders of the ALP –  (IMO) it will be an interesting counter point to the Libs.

There is a simple graded evaluation of the responses.

C – “Broken Promise!” like a broken record.  Yes, undoubtedly but not really demonstrating anything beyond party faithful chanting.  May play well in house, but undeserving of job promotion.

B – “Inequitable”.  Yes, this is starting to demonstrate some core but BY ITSELF it is insufficent.  There is a canonisation of previous economic and tax settings which oppositions fall in to when criticising the change.  What we have isn’t perfect, or even reasonable, its a democratic compromise.

A – Criticism of the efficiency, effectiveness, and potential even goals of the budget.  Now that is an Opposition.

So who will step up to A grade commentary and when?  Penny Wong has the intellectual fire power, but on recent day’s of comment seemingly not the will.  Chris Bowen I am hopeful about.  Not expecting much (can I say anything) from Bill Shorten.

Tanya Pliberek, Anthony Albanese, Tony Burke, Joel Fitzgibbon, and others can all demonstrate their candidacy for the top job.  It won’t happen tonight, but we should hope that it starts to happen within the week.


Work till we drop? or till 70? or just a beat up??

work till drop

There has been more than a little hysteria in the response to the proposed “increase in the retirement age to 70”. The Commission of Audit had suggested an implementation date of 2050, and the Liberal Government has brought this back to 2035.

I am not insensitive to the issue of manual labourers literally wearing themselves out well before 70, but I am also not unaware of the growth in the cost of providing the aged pension to an increasing number of long living recipients.


In 1909 when Australia first (Federally) provided an aged pension it was means tested and required 25 years of prior residency. (NSW and Victoria had had State aged pensions from 1900).  Just 4% of the population were living long enough to be old enough to gain a pension.

And those “4%” pensioners were averaging just 12 years on the pension. Today average (on pension) pensioner life expectancy is out 19 years and continuing to increase.

pension life expectancy

There is a related stat the demonstrates the affordability challenge, and its increasing difficulty. (In cannot find the 1909 stats but believe it was then far higher than 10:1) Today there are 5 working age people for each person older than 65. By 2050 this will have fallen to just 2.4 working age citizens for each person older than 65.

The post 2050 affordability of a pension in the form it is today is not some open question, challenging demographers, and policy planners. There are simply no circumstances under which the current pension system will be affordable.  The only open question is what do we change and when.


“Forced to work to 70” is nonsense. It is entirely false that somehow there will be a requirement to remain in work (or actively looking for work) to the age of 70.  This is simple wilful stupidity by any number of partisan and non partisan commentators. Any commentary that states or implies the “forced to work to 70” line is nonsense.

What has been recommended, and is now being proposed is a change to the age at which citizens become eligible for the aged pension (changing to 70 from 65), and a parallel change to the “preservation age” (basically changing to 65 from 60).

People will be able to retire at 65 and access their personal compulsory Super, and also retire earlier than 65 IF they are able to arrange their financial circumstances to fund any gap years.


In 1992 Paul Keating, via “The Accord” process, brought in compulsory Super for Australia. A good thing too!  Starting at 3% it has been increased to 9% and is now on its way (from 9.25%) to 12%  Someone who will be 70 in 2035 was 27 in 1992.

So what will this compulsory Super be worth? Let us call our specimen 48 y.o. citizen “Wayne”, someone who remains in employment across his working life, and does nothing more than pay in the compulsory super contribution via his employer for that period.

(A few modelling assumptions all the $s are based in 2013/14. Super post tax, post inflation, average return is 3.5%).

An income of just $43,000p.a. across that period for Wayne allows him to retire at 65 on a self funded retirement income exactly matching the pension.

At $57,400 (Australian Median Annual Wage) Wayne would have self funded “pension” equivalence at 62, 1.33x pension at 65, and 1.95x pension at 70.

At $72,800 (Australian Average Annual Wage) Wayne would have self funded “pension” equivalence at 59, 1.69x pension at 65, and 2.46x pension at 70.

So let me put this simply, even on a below median wage Wayne could expect to continue to retire at 65 and self fund a pension equivalent.

Reality is Wayne could probably live for 10 or so years at considerably more than pension and then fall back on the safety net.

It is also worth point out that “Wayne” our 2035 70 y.o. is not typical of what it will be like in years after. Someone 22 y.o. this year (“Wayne Jnr” (with the same financial modelling assumptions) would need an income of just $24,500 p.a. to 65 to allow him to retire at 65 on a self funded retirement income exactly matching the pension.

At $57,400 (Australian Median Annual Wage) Wayne would have self funded “pension” equivalence before 55, 2.34x pension at 65, and 3.29x pension at 70.

At $72,800 (Australian Average Annual Wage) Wayne would have self funded “pension” equivalence way before 55, 2.97x pension at 65, and 4.17x pension at 70.


In the years beyond 2035 there will have been more years of compulsory super for our “Waynes” and the retirement incomes increase. Also I have not modelled any increase beyond 12% rate which I think is very conservative.  Both sides of parliament have talked of the need to move to 15%.


The reality is pensions will be changing. This change is not the sky falling in.  No one will be “forced to work ‘till they are 70”. Commentary on this topic has been thin on reality.

The (Federal) Marriage Act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage.

Thus speaks the Australian High Court today.

“Today the High Court decided unanimously that the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013, enacted by the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory, cannot operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act 1961. The Court held that the federal Parliament has power under the Australian Constitution to legislate with respect to same sex marriage, and that under the Constitution and federal law as it now stands, whether same sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal Parliament.”

I don’t support Same Sex Marriage for a whole bunch of reasons.  But excluding that view I am still pleased about today’s decision, and the details of judgement around that.  What a porridge it would have been to have State (and Territory) legislation, that made marriages “equal”, which exists in some parts of Australia but not others, only because these same “equal marriages” were actually not equal in the eyes of the law.

This has comprehensively shut down Same Sex Marriage on a States basis.

Let the debate, such as it is going to be, take place at Federal level.

TPVs work – its one of the reasons they are objectionable and should only be used with extreme policy care

Various claims are made about the policy effectiveness of TPVs. The data (by year) does not support the claims by Jane McAdam published in The Age 5th Dec 2013. Specifically “the evidence shows TPVs do not have a deterrent effect”. Nonsense.


By contemplation – McAdam is attempting to argue that changing the possible outcomes from boat arrival asylum seekers will have no deterrent effect?

By statistics – in a period in which global refugees numbered 9.5M +-1M the chart attached shows Australian boat arrivals, and persons arriving by boat (irregularly) to Australia. That is, while the “push” factors are not changing massively, arrivals are changing significantly.

The issue is complex, and the motivations and deterrences are diverse, but the stats don’t support “do not have a deterrent effect” TPVs were implemented Oct 1999 (Howard) and withdrawn Aug 2008 (Rudd1.0).

“Indeed, the ineffectiveness of TPVs was the reason the Rudd government abolished them.” Let me simply say this is ludicrously far from any reality on multiple levels. The Rudd government commenced with the 6 years of very low arrival rates, and believed that abolishing TPVs would have no impact on that rate. There is no public record of any government minister ever arguing “ineffective” McAdam is simply making things up. By the time of Rudd2.0 the government was re-establishing a number of policy elements of the Howard Government. Indeed former Rudd Ministers, now in opposition, have claimed that the reduction in boat arrivals now is a function of those changes implmented late in the Rudd2.0 term of government.

Final comment “Under international law, temporary protection is an exceptional measure generally only applied in situations of mass movements of asylum seekers, when individual refugee status determination is impracticable because of those large numbers.” This is a impressive and complex sentence actually devoid of any substantial meaning whatsoever, but capable of being understood to say that TPVs are not a legitimate policy option, and somehow in breach of international law – this is false.

TPVs are legal, they are compatible with the UN Convention on Refugees, and it is reasonable to assume by contemplation and observation of effect that they have had and do have a deterrent effect.

Why I am not opposed to TPVs for irregular maritime arrivals

10,500,234 refugees, globally in 2012, according to the UN.  And while there is somewhere between 200,000 and 1,000,000 people exiting this category each year, for the last 15 years it has been stubbornly high, certainly not trending downwards.  See http://data.unhcr.org/dataviz/ do you own exploration of the numbers of people involved.

Australia has had (under both Labor and Liberal governments) a fixed refugee quota for each calendar year.  It varies, up and down, but the total number is set by governments, and from 2006 onwards this has been just over 13,000 – recently increased to 20,000.

Each person arriving by boat reduces by one the number of UN determined refugees Australia will take from the various refugee camps globally.  It doesn’t have to be this way, but in practice both brands of Government have done this.

20,000 will not make a substantial numerical dent on the 10,000,000 refugees globally, so we are in to a situation of “triage”.  Triage – where the helper’s resources are insufficient to the need, it is a system which seeks to maximise the good achieved.  This is largely non-controversial when applied at hospital A&Es throughout Australia.  Run a thought experiment for a moment if the walk in patients were in charge of establishing priority would there be better health outcomes? A more maximised good? Australia should undertake a refugee program which is triaged by Australia.

The UN convention on refugees is a deeply flawed document, but by far the best we have, or are ever likely to have.  It has quite tight definitions on who is, and who is not, a UN categorised refugee.  Basically “a well founded fear of persecution” is required – abject poverty, and lack of opportunity is NOT a basis.  Refugee determinations in UN camps globally tend to occur at around the 10% rate, with placements at around 1% per year.  Once in Australia the determination rate largely inverts (around 90% or higher) and the placement rate is in excess of 25%. The UN convention also makes it effectively impossible to return a cluey asylum seeker against their wishes.

Under the current system there is a clear incentive to move from UN camp to Australian shores, or at least Australian interception at sea.

Temporary Protection Visas are within the guidelines of the UN Convention.

TPVs do remove the risky and lethal incentive to undertake an irregular maritime arrival.

Reducing IMAs will allow Australia to triage its refugee response – as such you would anticipate a maximised good.

On this basis I am not opposed to a policy that implements TPVs for IMA asylum seekers.

It has been said “you should talk softly and carry a big stick”.  I think when it comes to this difficult policy area this should be reversed.  Talking up toughness, but delivering a generous response is defendable.

Whether it is reasonable to retrospectively apply this to asylum seekers already in Australia is another level of difficulty – I suspect the answer is no.

A review committee that passes everything, and a co-chairman who personally profits. What could go wrong?

Belgian euthanasia is now so out of control that even some local pro euthanasia groups are questioning the process.

Tasmania’s Parliament has recently voted down Euthanasia legislation which is a personal whim of the current Premier and the leader of The Greens.  During debate it was argued that the Belgium experience was exemplary, and indication that there were no inherent problems.  Tasmania was not even going to have the limited protections that are failing the Belgians.

The Canadian National Post covers the issue well http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/11/22/death-by-doctor-controversial-physician-has-made-his-name-delivering-euthanasia-when-no-one-else-will/

The linked article is excellent, I won’t go over their ground.  However with specific  reference to the Tasmania experience, in quick point form the issues I can see.

The review committee is an offensive joke. 

No referrals, ever, in 11 years.  The committee co-chairman is an extremist advocate and activist practitioner.  “A minute” to review the internationally reported incident of an abused person, born a girl, who underwent gender reassignment, was dissatisfied, and was euthanaised by the committee co-chair.

An expansion of scope to “existential” suffering, “borderline cases”, euthanasia tourists, and a push for children.

Depressed patients being euthanaised.

Multiple evidence of a “slippery slope”, and a growing rate of euthanasia.

Tasmania is well served by its Legislative Council, if the Premier and the leader of The Greens are dissatisfied they could perhaps consider their own personal frolics and the impact that has had on parliamentary efficiency in 2013.